two minds interacting

Communication in the old mind takes place by the process of identification, discussed in the first post in this series (before being interrupted by some pesky science). The old mind is extremely well developed having been very gradually evolved for 6 million years. The old mind has for eons been motivated by the aversive avoidance of painfully anxious emotions and collectively enforced by group anger. The knowledge communicated by the old mind is a labyrinth of time-tested rules that had been, in the distant past, selected in real-time for-the-good-of-the-group and then receded to take a place in the elaborate hierarchy of the divided labor of group behavior that has accreted for millions upon millions of years.

George Washington
Founded by the Old Mind.

The old mind is a vast reservoir of rules as to how to act collectively, with “civility” that had been selected for group productivity. This is one of the keys. The old mind is an Old Testament mind of rules and consequences, but its rules are rules for the common good, long purged of all selfishness, competition, and freeloading. The old mind is, above all a universal mind tied closely to long evolved emotion that knows no boundaries except that of the occasional banishment for breaking the rules. The old mind is a vast unconscious ocean of universal social codes, working broadly across individuals and groups in the present moment, and is radically conservative, preserving these ancient rules between individuals. The old mind is present to us having traveled up through the ages, but emanating thence from the thin ether of relationships, from a spiritual space, perhaps even containing the silent voice of God constantly whispering to us all through our common soul.

Peacock's sexual display

In contrast to all of these attributes, the new mind is quite the opposite. Whereas the old mind is universal and communal, the new mind is competitively individual. Whereas the old mind is motivated by aversion to fear, the new mind is driven to seek a broad variety of sexual pleasure.  Freud had a global concept of sexuality he called narcissism, which relates to the desire to be admired by others (biologically known as sexual display, biblically as vanity). Narcissism has been a concept that psychoanalysts have struggled with since Freud’s time. It has always had pathological implications to the curiously straight-laced psychoanalytic ideal of maturity.

Self psychology
Hans Kohut

However, in the 1970s, a Viennese born American psychoanalyst named Hans Kohut attempted to rehabilitate the reputation of narcissism by hypothesizing that the personality possessed a “self-system” (separate from the ego-system) within which the nurturing of narcissism in the child was vital to the achievement of healthy self-esteem in the well-adjusted adult. Because the term narcissism continues to convey a strongly negative implication, I refer to this unique and entirely normal human emotion-and-motivation simply as “self-display” in order to emphasize that this feeling state is directed not only to the opposite sex, but also to a somewhat nonspecific wider audience. In the words of Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage.”

life on a stage

Crucially, one of Kohut’s principal observations was that the communication of esteem during therapy involves “mirroring,” in which a patient essentially imitates the totality of a healthy positive mood in the therapist. One of the principle features of the evolutionary phenomenon of self-display is that it can be communicated quickly to many others by imitation (mirroring), as opposed to the emotionally tethered and conservative process of identification in the old mind. Communication in the new mind is totally captured by the computer concept of information “going viral.” A conveniently current example of that is the explosion of the expression, “no problem” to mean a whole variety of things,

Going Viral

including, “your welcome.” I suspect that the root of this expression comes from Spanish speakers who originally used it as an all-purpose, catchall phrase to express the very American idea that whatever it is it can be done – no problem. So, whereas the old mind is anchoring communication down with communal rules, the new mind is constantly and irrepressibly on the move, slipping and sliding around, parts of it catching on here and there and then spreading like wildfire amongst young people through entire populations. Whereas the old mind is stogy, correct and aversively enforced, the new mind full of sexuality and creative unpredictability. The old mind is about maintaining the status quo and the new mind is about changing it. The new mind is always in a narrow self-conscious focus while the old mind is broadly unconscious and in the background. The meaning of the old mind is for-the-good-of-the-group and the meaning of the new mind is the fun of the individual being on a grand social stage with an imaginary crowd all applauding.

A Piece of Work

Now listen to the great bard wrestle with what is produced when the New mind and old mind interact: 


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